The most anticipated film of the year has been dominating headlines since Wednesday. Sadly, it doesn’t open this weekend. In fact, it doesn’t open for another month, which says a lot more about the new releases for February 24th than it does The Hunger Games itself.
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
February 23, 2012
After a remarkably consistent February, where several new movies have performed to best-case scenario (and above), we’ll come crashing back to earth this weekend, at least somewhat. A couple of this weekends openers have a chance to open decently, and one may even hit the $20 million mark, but a $20 million debut weekend in February doesn’t carry the same cachet it used to.
Tyler Perry is arguably the most prolific directors working in the business. After writing the screenplay for Diary of a Mad Black Woman and seeing it exceed expectations, he moved on to helm ten different theatrical releases in the years since 2006 (that’s about two per year), and has made Lionsgate a very, very happy distributor as he effectively has what seems to be a lifetime contract with them. During that time, movies he has directed opened with a low of $11 million (Daddy’s Little Girls) and a high of $41 million (Madea Goes to Jail), but the one empirical piece of data we have is that his Madea movies traditionally perform better than his non-Madea movies.
The thing is, that distinguishing characteristic becomes less and less important with each passing movie he does, because “Tyler Perry” is becoming a brand unto itself. His recent non-Madea movies seem to settle nicely within the $17-$29 million range, and since the marketing for this weekend’s new film, Good Deeds, is pretty much “Tyler Perry as Tyler Perry in a Tyler Perry film!”, we figure it can slot in at around $21 million. These films serve their audience well, and even if they are critically ravaged, Perry is a positive presence in “Hollywood” who truly understands the people he’s hoping to engage.
Next up is our second new opener, Act of Valor, a patriotic action film about a Navy SEAL squad that goes on a covert mission to rescue a CIA operative, taking out some terrorists along the way. It’s a movie that should capitalize nicely on the national pride that many are feeling in the aftermath of the raid and operation to execute notorious terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Real Navy SEALs and US Navy Special Warfare Combatant Crewman were used in the filming of the project, which carries only about a $15-18 million production budget. Relativity Media has been aggressive in marketing the film, with a Super Bowl ad as well as television ads that appeared during the NFL playoffs and the Carrier Classic NCAA men’s basketball game. It’s going to be very hard for this movie to not make money, as that pride in our servicemen is a universal sentiment, though the movie is of course likely to play better in Red States. It can be compared to the September 2011 release Courageous, which made $9.1 million in its 1,161 venues. Act of Valor is in almost three times as many theaters, which bodes very well for its prospects since it can expand to meet demand. $16.5 million seems like a reasonable start for this title.
After those two new releases, we see some significant drop-off in terms of box office potential. Wanderlust, from director David Wain and starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, is actually a Judd Apatow-produced project, but the marketing of the film has been lackluster at best. Universal is only giving the film 2,001 theaters, the fewest of any new release this weekend. That’s an indicator that the studio has little confidence in the film and is just throwing it onto screens. Wanderlust is getting more positive reviews than negative, and it reunites Rudd and Wain, who previously worked together on the wonderful Role Models, but audiences just don’t have a compelling reason to get to theaters to see this one. We may be lowballing this – Aniston is popular and people might just been in the mood for a comedy – but we have a bad feeling about it. $8 million should be in the cards.
Our final new debut is Gone, which is a title with a self-fulfilling prophecy. The only notable accomplishment for this film is that it got more venues than Wanderlust. Otherwise, it looks it ought to have been airing as a very special movie on the Lifetime Network. Gone had a $28 million budget, which probably partially explains why Summit Entertainment had to accept a buyout offer from Lionsgate, which is busy distributing Tyler Perry movies and The Hunger Games. The movie does star Amanda Seyfried, who has her fans, but there is no one else of note in it. Well, Wes Bentley is back, and just after Reagen Sulewski noted in last week’s forecast that his career was almost ended. Take that, Reagen! Hmm…the fact that he gets fifth billing behind some C-level TV stars probably doesn’t make it better, does it? His character’s obsession with the plastic bag in American Beauty is a metaphor for his career after all. But wait! Bentley is in The Hunger Games as Head Gamemaster Seneca Crane! Take that, Reagen! Ha ha!
Anyway, back to Gone, which none of you really cared about anyway. It’s going to have an unremarkable performance and then fade into obscurity, just like it should. $7 million for the weekend seems reasonable here.